advertisement
31 August 2007

More calories in healthy food

With the increasing popularity of 'health food', why is obesity still increasing? Research into this phenomenon revealed some astonishing facts.

0
An important new study from the Journal of Consumer Research explains the “American obesity paradox”: the parallel rise in obesity rates and the popularity of healthier food.

In a series of four studies, the researchers reveal that we over-generalize “healthy” claims. In fact, consumers chose beverages, side dishes and desserts containing up to 131% more calories when the main dish was positioned as “healthy”.

“In our black-and-white view, most food is 'good' or 'not good',” explains Pierre Chandon (INSEAD, France) and Brian Wansink (Cornell University). “When we see a fast-food restaurant like Subway advertising its low-calorie sandwiches, we think, ‘It’s OK: I can eat a sandwich there and then have a high-calorie dessert,’ when, in fact, some Subway sandwiches contain more calories than a Big Mac.”

In one study, Chandon and Wansink had consumers guess how many calories are in sandwiches from two restaurants. They estimated that sandwiches contain 35% fewer calories when they come from restaurants claiming to be healthy than when they are from restaurants not making this claim.

The result of this calorie underestimation
Consumers then chose beverages, side dishes, and desserts containing up to 131% more calories when the main course was positioned as “healthy” compared to when it was not—even though, in the study, the “healthy” main course already contained 50% more calories than the “unhealthy” one.

“These studies help explain why the success of fast-food restaurants serving lower-calorie foods has not led to the expected reduction in total calorie intake and in obesity rates,” the authors write.

What should people and health agencies do?
In the final study, the researchers show that encouraging people to examine whether the restaurant’s health claims actually apply to the particular food they ordered eliminates the “health halo” effects.

As they explain: “More generally, we need to think about food not just qualitatively (as in “good food – bad food”) but also quantitatively (as in “how many calories are in this meal").” - (HealthDay)

Read more:
Healthy fast food bad for heart
Fast food without the fat

 
NEXT ON HEALTH24X
advertisement

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Dangerous winter sun »

Why female students ignore the risks of indoor tanning Can rooibos protect you from the effects of UVB exposure?

Skin cancer always a risk – even in winter

During winter, the risk of skin cancer doesn’t disappear. CyberDoc talks to us about when to see your doctor about a strange-looking mole or spot.

Did you know? »

The 5 saltiest foods may surprise you Craving salt? Your genes may be the reason

10 fascinating facts about salt

The one thing that fast foods, whether it be chips, hamburgers, pretzels or fried chicken have in common, is loads of salt.